A lot of information has been released this week including JobKeeper and a moratorium on evictions. Here’s an explainer that summarises the latest announcements and what’s currently available to creatives, arts workers, and small to medium organisations affected by COVID-19.
$130 billion in Jobkeeper Payments Announced
Today (30 March) it was announced that employers will receive $1,500 per fortnight payments for workers (including casuals and soletraders) in the form of JobKeeper payments. This payment will be made via the ATO to employers with every eligible employee receiving at least $1,500 per fortnight from this business, before tax.
The payment will ensure eligible employers and employees stay connected even if businesses have move into hibernation. Eligible businesses can begin paying the JobKeeper payment immediately and will be reimbursed from the first week of May as payments will be backdated to 30 March.
The payment will be paid to employers, for up to six months, for each eligible employee that was on their books on 1 March 2020 and is retained by that employer. Where a business has stood down employees since 1 March, the payment will help them maintain connection with their employees.
Full-time and part-time employees, including stood-down employees, are eligible to receive the JobKeeper payment. Where a casual employee has been with their employer for at least the previous 12 months they will also be eligible for the payment. An employee will only be eligible to receive this payment from one employer.
As Theatre Network Australia note, however: ‘We are aware [the JobKeeper payment] is not helpful for the thousands of freelancers and independents who move from project to project. The current mechanism for support for you are the JobSeeker payments.’
TNA’s concerns are backed up by the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), whose Chief Executive Paul Murphy stated: ‘The subsidy is intended to keep about 6 million Australians in the workforce, but there are complexities within the scheme that may have inadvertently resulted in freelance employees – people whose work is episodic and from gig to gig – being excluded.
‘The government urgently needs to clarify if freelance employees are eligible in the same way sole traders with an ABN are, and if they are not, this must be fixed.
‘In addition, the 12 months of continuous employment required for casuals to be eligible is far too long,’ Murphy said.
Evictions illegal for six months
Federal Cabinet have placed a moratorium on evictions over the next six months for renters (both commercial and residential) who are unable to make rental payments due to the impact of COVID-19.
But there’s no firm rule that requires landlords to collaborate with tenants. ‘Commercial tenants, landlords and financial institutions are encouraged to sit down together to find a way through,’ said the latest National Cabinet Statement.
A drafted letter is available on tenants.org.au website and can help tenants start this conversation with landlords.
partner Income test relaxed for coronavirus supplement
The JobSeeker Payment has been increased to $550 per fortnight for both existing and new recipients, effectively doubling the current rate. Individuals (including sole traders) who have been impacted financially by COVID-19 are eligible to apply. It will come into effect from 27 April 2020 and be available for six months.